Wednesday, March 7, 2007

First Blush: Aracde Fire - Neon Bible

As previously mentioned in this space, I’m kinda into these guys. I have been eagerly awaiting this album for a while. I wanted the deluxe edition (which does not truly appear to be worth the extra four dollars – unless you really like flipbooks and those baseball cards that look like they move if you tilt them back and forth), but upon arriving at Best Buy, there was one lonely copy of the standard version. I made a skinny guy go check in the back and he found some buried treasure. Apparently, there’s been rampant internet availability, but I have not heard these songs yet. So without further ado…

Track 1 – Black Mirror
0:02 – Growing thunder or something
0:13 – Suffragette City riff in effect.
0:49 – Win starts off with a whisper and keeps it there. I can barely make out what he’s saying outside of the chorus which is simply “Black Mirror” repeated.
1:21 – Win kicks it up a notch with a lot of low notes behind him.
1:55 – “Black mirror knows no reflection. It knows not pride or vanity.” I’m totally lost on what this is about, but that’s nothing new.
2:18 – Shouting in French!
2:37 – This definitely has the feel of an “intro” track. They’re not trying to blow their wad too early. There’s definitely a richer level of production than in their previous releases.

Track 2- Keep the Car Running
0:01 – String section tuning up leads into a banjo(?) and then thumping drums.
0:28 – Feeling very snappy!
1:18 – Win’s voice hauntingly echoed all on its own
1:47 – “Hoooo-ooohohoooho” That’ll stick. I’ll sing along once I get it down.
2:19 – Second time they’ve built the bass drum up and then backed off into another verse. I’m craving a taller peak.
3:21 – It could be a single, although not a huge hit. That track had more pep to it.

Track 3 – Neon Bible
0:41 – This one’s very low thus far.
1:14 – I feel like we’re being told a story here, but obviously I don’t know what it’s about yet.
1:58 – Well, that’s the least I’ve ever written about a track in First Blush, but it’s a short ‘un.

Track 4 – Intervention
0:10 – Beautiful-sounding pipe organ (which I believe was recorded in a church if I recall correctly – liner notes confirm this)
1:15 – “Workin’ for the Church while your family dies.” So this one’s a tad bleak.
1:38 – Drums kick in and we’re groovin’ now. This is the first single, and I can see why.
2:00 – Win’s voice picks up as the strings come in.
3:04 – The lyrics are now echoed by Regine, sounding very far away.
3:24 – Most fired up Win’s been yet. This song is a winner, despite how slick it sounds.
3:54 – We finish with the repeated line, “Hear the soldier groan, ‘We’ll go it alone.’” With the organ holding on at the end. Best song so far.

Track 5 – Black Wave / Bad Vibrations
0:10 – Reminiscent of some 80s song from Karate Kid or something – like there’s a Casio keyboard, even though I know that’s highly unlikely with this band.
1:12 – The track is kind of dull at this point. It’s almost like the whole thing is in the background.
1:39 – Now Win comes in and the drums have more to it. This must be the second section, although he’s clearly saying something about a Black Wave. Maybe they reversed the titles to throw us off.
2:59 – We can almost hear the Black Wave crest - something in the percussion breaking over everything.

Track 6 – Ocean of Noise
0:07 – It’s living up to the billing so far. I’m picturing the sounds from a 60s exploitation film. Some sort of chase down a dark alley (not the music from that movie – the sounds).
1:06 – Another dark track, this one is almost groovy in its gloom.
2:08 – “Now who here among us, still believes in choice? Not I.”
3:01 – “All the reasons I gave were just lies to buy myself some time. Can we work it out?” As evidenced by the lyrics, this song seems more personal. Win’s voice sounds closer, and the music is more supportive of it than battling with it for prominence.
4:30 – All strings and trumpet at the end. Almost a woozy sadness.

Track 7 – The Well and the Lighthouse
0:04 – Speedy intro here, and the track continues that way. It’s nearly Bloc Party-esque.
1:43 – The chord progression is very sing-songy, with the beat staying consistently peppy.
2:20 – It breaks down to half-time with the song swaying back and forth almost in a 1960’s Fats Domino kind of way. The song is taking me with it. I just don’t know where we’re going.
3:25 – It’s practically Motown now.

Track 8 – (Antichrist Television Blues)
0:06 – Mama’s got a squeezebox, Daddy never sleeps at night!
0:35 – I hate that I keep just comparing these songs to different artists, but this reminds me of Bruce Springsteen (after that Who-ey intro).
1:45 – It looks like they’re only putting half their lyrics into the liner notes. Not for half the songs, but half of each song. Interesting. The question is, are the ones that are written more important or is it the ones that aren’t – and how did they decide which ones to include in the first place?
3:38 – Soaring in kind of a whiny way.
5:07 – EXTREMELY abrupt ending to the song. Like whoah.

Track 9 – Windowsill
0:10 – Just a little bit of guitar and one drum and Win singing about what he don’t want.
0:48 – We’ve added some singers
0:59 – When they put that intro Youtube out a month or two ago, this was one of the points that really stuck with me. Subtle and sudden at the same time.
2:05 – “Because the tide is high. And it’s rising still. And I don’t want to see it at my windowsill.” One could call this song political, but it’s more societal. It’s the richest song thus far, even if it’s condemning my country (or is it just the people in my country – if that’s the case, then yeah – 4 million of them went to see Wild Hogs last weekend). I can’t say I disagree with the issues it’s raising.
3:07 – There’s the Freedom Horn! Been waiting for that.

Track 10 – No Cars Go
0:08 – Hey, I know that guy. He’s a nihilist. What gives? Thought this was a new album?
0:38 – OK, the version is clearly different – but do I judge it on its own merits or compare it to the original. Because I love the original and on a First Blush, I’m probably not going to like this one better.
1:20 – I think the “Hey!” is better in the original. It’s too front-and-center here. I’m sure I’ll get over that.
2:07 – Bass is being played by some sort of horns? It’s an interesting sound, either way.
2:20 –I guess they have to play this one at every show since it’s on two-thirds of their releases, right?
3:49 – Yeah, I really don’t see the point. I realize the instrumentation is a bit different and so is the mix, but if it ain’t broke… ‘Cause I’m either going to never appreciate this one or it’s going to make me like the other one less. And I don’t want to do that.

Track 11 – My Body is a Cage
0:01 – A cappella beginning.
0:45 – Win is going for soul and he’s not doing too badly with it, even though it’s clearly not his forte.
1:33 – It’s all organ, vocals and little drums. Totally different from any AF we’ve heard before, but I’m digging it.
2:10 – Damn! All the sound just came crashing in.
2:24 – Snare drum is kicking things up, now.
2:50 – I’m calling this track a masterpiece right now. I will clearly listen to it over and over again.
3:13 – I’m already uncontrollably singing along…
3:37 – Win at the absolute top of his range, pleading, “Set my spirit free.”
3:58 – We finally get a “Woh!” from Win – first on the album if I’m not mistaken.
4:44 – Song fades out very quickly and that’s the end of the record.

I’m not sure what to think yet. Funeral took me several listens to even begin to appreciate what it was all about. So I don’t want to judge too quickly here. You folks who downloaded off the internet three weeks ago might have a better opinion. Feel free to let me know how it’s digesting for ya. On Funeral, you could sense the sadness for each track. That’s not the case here. There are certainly at least a few standout tracks for which I eagerly await getting all the nuances. The question is if the others that seem “duller” (I don’t mean boring, just not as emotional) will sharpen up over time. I’m willing to put my faith in the band and say “fer sure.” After one listen, it’s clear that any publication saying this is crap is out of their minds (there have been several).

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